continuousWave--> Sail-Logs --> July 2001 --> Day Three

Should have left yesterday. Today we seem to be missing a spark.


Date:Thursday, July 5, 2001
Weather:Low Pressure moving in from NW
Winds:NW 20 and gusting
Waves:Slight chop inside breakwall
Location:Lying Northport Marina


Stormy Night in Northport

0030 Wind suddenly up and blowing from NW.
     Comes on very fast.
     Need to re-rig dock lines.
     My bow spring line holding
     whole raft from going downwind!
     Raft of four boats bouncing around in wind.

0230 Heavy rain on and off all night

0800 Awake after a poor night's sleep.
     Fenders were squeaking against seawall.

We are awakened after only an hour of sleep by the arrival of a cold front from the northwest. Even though we are in the lee of the peninsula for winds from this direction, they blow into the marina with a flurry. Our whole raft of boats, now four in number, surges at the dock, held in place mainly by a single spring line from my boat.

We quickly add some additional lines to take up the strain. The wind presses our fleet against the sea wall, and with our boat being on the inside we are stuck with the sound of our fenders grinding against the dock and pilings for the rest of the night.

To add to the misery, a few hours later it begins to rain heavily. At least it is raining at night, instead of ruining one of our vacation days.

Another Northport Marina Morning

Weather:Fair. Sunny but cool. Cold front has blown through.
Winds:NW 10-20
Waves:4-6 feet in open lake
Location:Lying Northport Marina


1130 We unraft boats as adjacent boats want to leave.
     Large Catamaran sailboat (35-footer)
     just manages to depart the seawall with much help
     and fending off.
     Moved WHALE LURE out of the way
     just in time

By morning, the rain has passed and the sun has returned, but the air is colder. The strong breeze from the northwest has kicked up whitecaps in the Bay, as we can plainly see by looking eastward with our binnoculars. Conditions do not look comfortable out there.

No one is in a rush to leave. Some other boats along the sea wall eventually decide to depart, including a very wide catamaran sailboat moored just downwind of us. The boats are really packed in tightly on the seawall, and there is just a foot or two between our sterns and his bow. As the captain of the sailboat warms up his engine and makes ready to leave the dock, we all ponder his manuverability. Some other spaces open up on the docks, so we unraft and move all our boats out of his way, save for our boat dead ahead of him. With the help of several other boaters, he gets a strong shove away from the dock, and I standby in the stern of my boat to fend him off. The big catamaran just clears our boat and makes slowly out to windward and away from the seawall.

After late brunch and a shower at the bath house--it has the worst shower heads in the world, the spray so needle like it seems to pierce your skin-- our flotilla is reading to depart.

Northport to Charlevoix
21 Miles

1300 Depart in shelter of Northport Bay and Northport point
     Crossing open lake, waves building to 4-6 feet on our beam
     About mid crossing we stop briefly to let others re-join group.
     As they begin to catch up we take off again.

1345 Now a problem on CONTINUOUS WAVE.
     PORT engine only will run to 2500 RPM.
     I have to run STBD engine full throttle to get boat on plane,
     then I can back off and syncronize engines about 3500 RPM.
     Something is definitely wrong with PORT ENGINE

We are heading north and east to Charlevoix, about a 21 mile run across the mouth of Grand Traverse Bay. For the first five miles we are sheltered by the lee of the peninsula, but once in the open lake the waves are rolling in. The seas are running four to six feet or more, but thankfully we are not heading into them. The passage is a bit rough, but nothing we cannot handle. Our fleet separates into two groups. About halfway across, we slow down and reassemble briefly with BACKLASH. WHALE LURE and T/T WHALE LURE have taken a more northerly route, staying in the lee of the point longer, and are out of sight at the moment. Steve and I chat for a moment, comparing notes about the ride. It is not too bad, we are making good way and will hold this course line to Charlevoix, about ten miles ahead.

As I give the engines some gas to resume our trip, I suddenly have a problem! The port engine refuses to run at more than half speed. What has happened? It was working fine just moments ago.

Rolling around the lake in six-foot waves is no place for engine problems, but we have one. I holler over to Steve and he comes closer on BACKLASH. I explain our situation, and decide we'll continue to Charlevoix at whatever speed we can make.

It turns out that I can get the boat on plane if I run the good engine at maximum throttle. The boat will stay on plane even with the port engine only running about half power. We limp toward Charlevoix, running through the large waves at about 15-MPH on a slow plane.

After about fifty minutes we are lined up for a sprint into the entrance channel, the waves rolling in and building into rather large combers as the bottom shoals under them. A sense of relief comes as we run the inlet and idle back to cruise down the channel into Round Lake.

1500 Arrive Charlevoix. Down wind run to entrance of harbor.
     Go to Irish Boat Shop for possible repairs.
     Too busy to help immediately.
     We troubleshoot the problem ourselves.
     First, fuel lines checked.
     Some water in fuel is seen.
     Pull shroud on engine.

1515 Discover loose spark plug wire. Confidence returns.
     Quick check ride around Lake Charlevoix with LHG and LCG.
     Engine running well again. Yeah!

1600 Lying Marina pier

My initial thinking on the engine problem is that it must be related to the all-new fuel system I installed a few weeks ago. I had replaced all the hoses, filters, primer bulbs, and fittings in the 14-year-old fuel system. I have really not been happy with the way the primer bulbs were acting, but the engines seemed to be running OK and I had learned to live with it. Now I am very suspicious.

I pull the fuel line from the port engine, remove the connector fitting, and pump some gasoline into a bottle. Oh, I discover there is a tiny bit of water in the fuel! Perhaps that is the problem. Swapping fuel lines between engines does not fix the problem, however, so I look for something else.

We have put in at Irish Boat Shop's service dock, and consulting with them about having the engine repaired returns a most unfavorable result: they are so busy at the moment that they could not even look at it for a day or two! This sends us back to the boat to discover the problem ourselves.

Fortunately, the malady turns out to be quite simple and easily fixed. The rough running on the port engine was caused by the spark plug wire coming loose from the plug, a mystery revealed as soon as we take the cowling off the engine. Later I learn that this problem is very common with this vintage of Yamaha engine; several others report having had this happen to them. Reseating the plug wire puts the engine back in perfect tune. We take a test run to verify. We're back to full power and the boat is running fine, again. Happiness returns.


Date:4 p.m. Thursday, July 5, 2001
Winds:W light
Waves:Dead flat calm
Location:Lying Irish Boat Shop Marina


With the boat problems settled down, we return to enjoying what has become a pleasant afternoon. Inland from Lake Michigan a mile or so, the winds have died down. We are blessed with fair skies and sunshine. We've taken the boats over to the Irish Boat Shop marina, where we are moored together, four boats in a row, along the end T-dock of one of their long marina piers. Afternoons like this are filled with chatting among the boat crews and fiddling with the boats. There is always something on board that needs attention. If nothing else there are decks to swab, hulls to polish, and cold beer to be drained from the coolers. It is all part of a boating vacation.

Marina:Irish Boat Shop
Mooring:Along end T-docks; rate $1.75/foot
Dock height:2-feet, floating docks. Excellent fendering on dock, too.
Bathroom:2 urinals + 1 stall (get there early in the morning) Most boats have own facilities.
Showers:2, excellent spray nozzles!


The marina is mostly filled with seasonal slip rentals. There are many interesting boats here. One catches my eye. It is a very "downeast" looking boat. The 32-footer is finished in dark green hull, tan decks, plenty of varnished wood, and natural canvas shaded covers. It looks very nice, almost like a Hinckley, but it is not. In talking with some of the local boaters we discover its origins. The picnic yacht CATTABY was originally built for John Ramsey of Colorado, now unfortunately somewhat infamous because of the death of his daughter Jon Benet Ramsey. The letters "JR" are molded into the hull bulwarks near the stern quarter. The family has had a vacation home in the area for many years, but recently sold the boat.

Dinner Cruise to Charlevoix

1930 Dinner Cruise in T/T WHALE LURE to Stafford's.
     Moor at the dingy dock abeam USCGC ACACIA (180-footer).

For tonight's dinner we go by boat, again, this time taking the smallest of our fleet, T/T WHALE LURE, whose 18-feet will give us the best chance of finding someplace to dock when we reach the crowded harbor in Charlevoix.

At the "dingy dock" we find just enough room to squeeze in, making T/T WHALE LURE fast to the sea wall just in the gap between the shore and the hull of the USCGC ACACIA, a 180-foot buoy tender that is stationed here. I can't wangle an invitation on-board, dispite their charlie status (the lowest of their operational conditions). Tomorrow they will depart to work a buoy at Gray's Reef, a hazard in Lake Michigan about 30 miles due north of here.

"Maybe we'll see you out there," I say to the young seaman watchstander as we head off in search of our dinner destination.

Charlevoix offers a very large number of restaurants, ranging from a few fast-food places to some of the most expensive cuisine in the whole state. We pick Stafford's, a very old and well-known establishment with a great setting along the canal that connects Round Lake to Lake Michigan.

Restaurant:Stafford's Weathervane
Location:Charlevoix, Michigan
Setting:Overlooking harbor entrance
Ambience:Posh northern upscale
Cuisine:Refined resort
Meal:Whitefish Grenoble; Fresh perch
Price:$21-25 entrees; worth it.


No one orders planked Whitefish after LHG comments regarding
high bacteria counts on the planks!

Stafford's very busy. Service good but kitchen very slow.
Manager gives us free drinks and dessert.
Close down the restaurant at 11:00 p.m.

Fortunately, none of us is ravenously hungry as dinner takes almost three hours to be served. When the food does arrive, it is excellently prepared, and our palates are properly sensitized by an extra round of drinks, served to us on the house by the manager when we point out to him the long delay in our meal service. We also enjoy free desserts, an additional courtesy that more than makes up for the delay. Thus extraordinarily well watered and fed, we return to the boat docks for a short cruise back to our marina.

Return to Irish via T/T WHALE LURE
Calm night and good sleeping in marina

With the winds calm and our boat fast to the cushioned docks of our private marina, we enjoy an outstanding summer evening sleeping aboard. No thunderstorm interuptions tonight!

The six-day narrative continues in Day Four. Keep reading: this next part has all the good pictures!

Copyright © 2001 by James W. Hebert. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited!

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Author: James W. Hebert
This article first appeared June 2002.